National Committee on Biosafety (NCB), the highest regulatory body for GM crops in Bangladesh, officially approved the Bt brinjal varieties. With this step, Bangladesh becomes the 29th country in the world to grow GM crop. In South Asia, India, Pakistan and Myanmar grow GM crop cotton. With the NCB nod, Bangladesh becomes the first in the region to grow a GM food crop.
Four Bt brinjal varieties (Bt brinjal-1, 2, 3 and 4) have been approved by the Bangladesh Government for limited scale cultivation with some conditions. BARI (Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute) had developed these Bt brinjal varieties incorporating Indian company Mahyco’s proprietary gene construct technology.
Maharashtra-based seed company-Mahyco had transferred its Bt brinjal technology to BARI way back in 2005-06 through a USAID-funded and Cornell University-managed Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project.
About Bt brinjal
In GM crops, the genetic material (DNA) is altered for improvements in its qualities. Bt Brinjal, for instance, has been inserted with a natural bacterial protein which makes it resist pests.
Bt brinjal contains a foreign Cry1Ac gene derived from a soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt. This gene synthesises a protein toxic to the fruit and shoot borer (FSB), a destructive pest. The gene gives the crop a built-in resistance to FSB, reducing reliance on spraying pesticides.